Thursday, 2 April 2015

Alternate Best Supporting Actor 1969: Laurence Olivier in Oh! What A Lovely War

Laurence Olivier did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite winning BAFTA, for portraying Field Marshall Sir John French in Oh! What A Lovely War.

Oh! What a Lovely War is an interesting sprawling musical depicting World War I though as is usually the case for a Richard Attenborough directed film it never achieves the greatness it seems to be striving for. It has some great moments but never quite forms a cohesive whole with Attenborough once again attempting  to rely on famous stars to make up for the film's constantly wandering focus. That worked much more effectively in A Bridge Too Far.

Laurence Olivier is one of these stars although he is given two scenes at his disposal to portray the head of the British forces during the early part of the war. Olivier delivers the best star cameo here, although I suppose it does not quite count since he has two scenes. Anyway though Olivier takes the right approach, given the style of the film which in no way tries to find the humanity in any character, gives an absurdest caricature. Where some of the other cameos are pretty easy to forget as they just do their thing, make no real impact then leave, Olivier actually makes the right choice being a tad overt in his performance. He takes the approach of making John French as extremely British as he possibly can be. With his excessively British accent as well as just the way he almost seems to be a solid plank of a man in the way he so stiffly moves. In fact he  even makes sitting seem like a slightly odd thing to do because he must do it in a such a proper way. Olivier even takes the choice to seem as though he is almost always perhaps constipated because of just  how rigid of a man he must be at all times.

What Olivier does here might have been a bit much in different circumstances but I've usually found that he's an actor who knows when it's the right time to go big. Well this film is definitely the right time and I feel Olivier's performance best knows how to capture the spirit of the style it seems Attenborough was going for. That being all the historical figures making decisions were to be over the top and out of control, and I would assume then the family torn apart by the war would be shown in a realistic light, well at least that's probably how the film should have been. Well Olivier is at least one actor who seemed to understand this and he gives the best performance in the film because of it. It's also important that Olivier is quite entertaining in his portrayal of the oh so proper British General. He's particularly funny in the moment where he seems as though he's almost going to throw up at the prospect of speaking to the French Generals, or also how it seems to unnerve him to his very core when his eventually successor refers to him casually as Johnny. It's a fun performance, and frankly the film should have had more of him. He's a hoot for his two scenes though even though I do have to admit the best thing to come out of Olivier's association with the film is the speech he gave when accepting his Bafta win.

8 comments:

luke higham said...

Louis: Ratings & Thoughts on the rest of the cast.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Predictions going well. All I need to hope for now is that Louis disliked Berger as much as I did (apologies to whoever requested the performance).

On second thought, I joke, I joke. Of course I always hope Louis will like a performance.

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Has anyone here seen the 1979 Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy Miniseries? I'm halfway through now and gpsh Guiness is sublime in that although I don't want to compare him to Oldman, they both take different approaches to Smiley which work equally brilliantly. Ian Bannen, Bernard Hepton and Alexander Knox are terrific too (Bannen might, just might beat Mark Stong as Prideaux though it's close).

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

Also before I sign off...watched The Gunman.

Don't watch it. DON'T WATCH IT.

Javier Bardem has a fun cameo and Idris Elba valiantly tries in a horribly small, thankless role.

But Sean Penn gives probably his most miscast, one of the worst performances I've ever seen from him which is saying something. Just so trashy. I was going to mention it on the previous reviee but I thought, you know what, I'd better warn all the cinephiles on here.

Don't even consider reviewing Penn for a Wiseaus review because it's not even worthy of that. I have to get back to some more Guiness to soothe the pain.

luke higham said...

Prediction notwithstanding, I'm generally happy with any performance getting the nod of approval from Louis, regardless of my opinion for it, although my opinions are near enough in line with Louis's.

luke higham said...

GDSAO: I'm not surprised about Penn, he's consistent trash in my opinion.

JackiBoyz said...

@Donald: It was me who requested him lol I have never seen the movie, I just really wanted to hear some thoughts on what is a fairly talked about movie.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

All members who play the Smith family - (Maybe there were just too many of them. They're not bad just none of them make an impact)

Melia - 3.5(Takes a similar approach to Olivier as he plays his photographer with this strangely grim almost demonic quality that is quite effective even though he stays quite understated in this regard)

Bogarde, Cassel, Clements, More, Richardson, York, Gielgud and Mills - (Again none of them make much of an impact not even Mills despite a fairly important part but he really plays it too straight)

Michael Redgrave - 3.5(Now he's got the right idea as he does go a tad absurd and enjoyably so as he plays his General as someone who always seems out of his element)

Vanessa Redgrave - 3.5(And his daughter also has the right idea. Although she does not play it absurd because her character is sane but she delivers the needed passion in scene. As one of the few source of outrage over the war she brings the needed distaste for the senseless deaths of the war)

Smith - 4(She just has one musical number and she's great in it. She's brilliantly alluring in the number yet there is something so devilish about it all. It's a beautifully rendered performance as she personifies the allure of propaganda)